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Close not enough for Reid's Eagles



Published: Tue, February 8, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Philadelphia hopes to buck history and earn title sooner rather than later.

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Philadelphia expects to win a Super Bowl in less time than it took to win the NFC championship.

Playing in their first Super Bowl in 24 years wasn't enough for the Eagles. They want to come back and win it -- quickly -- after losing 24-21 to the New England Patriots on Sunday.

"We'll get over it," coach Andy Reid said Monday. "We'll get through this thing and we'll come back and learn from it."

Getting back certainly won't be easy -- just ask the NFC teams that played in the Super Bowl this decade.

Carolina's repeat bid was sidetracked by a slew of injuries, and it failed to make the playoffs this year. Tampa Bay (2003) was the first team to follow a Super Bowl victory with consecutive losing seasons, and neither St. Louis (2002) nor New York (2001) has returned to the conference championship game.

"I do understand the history of that and I know it's a tough thing," Reid said. "The reason I think we can get back here is we have a great nucleus of young players who had a taste of this thing."

Eagles are different

Maybe that's what separates the Eagles from so many of the other teams. In this salary-cap, free-agency era, Philadelphia (15-4) seems built to last.

They have $18 million available to spend, and most of their best young players are signed to long-term contracts.

Corey Simon, Jermane Mayberry, Jeremiah Trotter, Derrick Burgess, Chad Lewis and Jon Ritchie are all unrestricted free agents, but only losing Trotter would be particularly damaging.

"You want to think there will be subtle changes, but you never know how it works out," Reid said.

Building on many fronts

The Eagles made a big splash in the free-agent market last year, signing Jevon Kearse, Hugh Douglas and Trotter, and trading for Terrell Owens.

Owens led the Eagles with 77 catches for 1,200 yards and 14 TDs, then made a stunning return to play in the Super Bowl just 61/2 weeks after ankle surgery. He invigorated the Eagles with his swagger and delivered everything expected, from the electric playmaking to the outrageous antics -- including a steamy segment with actress Nicollette Sheridan for the intro to "Monday Night Football."

Reid and team president Joe Banner have a history of adding quality on draft day, too. The 2002 draft brought starters Lito Sheppard, Michael Lewis, Sheldon Brown and Brian Westbrook, and Super Bowl starting tight end L.J. Smith was a second-round pick in 2003. Guard Shawn Andrews, their 2004 first-round pick, should slide back into the starting lineup after his season ended with a broken leg.

While Andrews suffered his disappointment in the season opener, the Eagles delivered it to their fans in the very last game.

Painful, disappointing history

Then again, Philadelphia fans are so painfully used to the routine.

None of Philadelphia's four major professional teams have won a championship since the 76ers captured the NBA title in 1983, and they've won only nine titles in more than 120 years. The last football title came in 1960, and it took three tough losses in the NFC championship game before these Eagles broke through this year.

Reid and Donovan McNabb have been linked since Reid used his first draft pick on the franchise quarterback. The duo have been responsible for the most successful era in team history, and that's a great start. Ultimately, they could be judged on Super Bowl rings, not division titles.

"I know I have a good football team coming back," Reid said. "I'll be ready to go when we get back."




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